An interesting recent development in the political field has been the political entry of Rajnikant, the Tamil megastar. He has caused a considerable confusion in the political circles by terming his brand of politics as “spiritual.” For people thus far familiar only with terminology such as social-engineering politics, socialist politics, religious politics, communal politics and regional politics, this new adjective sounded strange and mysterious – so much so that the DMK veteran Stalin promptly stated that there was no place for a thing such as spiritual politics in the ‘Dravidian’ land.

He went on to accuse that certain elements bent upon crushing the movements started by Periar, Anna Durai and Kalignar Karunanidhi had joined the Rajni’s bandwagon and were provoking him. And Dinakaran, who surprised one and all with his victory in RK Nagar in Chennai, added that spiritualism is a personal and private matter, and that dangerous consequences could follow if it is imparted into the political arena.

As it is, a large number of people feel that Rajni’s belated entry into the political field is at the instigation of BJP. Why else, they argue, would a person, who has been sitting on the fence for decades threatening to stage an entry, now take the plunge, especially when he is reportedly not keeping good health. They allege that the expression ‘spiritual’ will eventually get subsumed into the Hindutva theme of the BJP and begin to pollute, with religious sentiments, the hitherto largely atheist and agnostic political scene in Tamil Nadu.

At this point, it is necessary to get a few things clear in one’s mind. It would, I think, be a mistake to brand the Dravidian movement as one belonging to an atheist or agnostic genre. The movement has targeted only Hinduism and never opposed tenets of the Christian and the Islamic faiths in the least. Essentially an anti-Brahmin platform, it opposed the Aryan domination and condemned the worshipping of (what, according to them), were Aryan Gods such as Rama and Krishna.

They never turned against the deities worshipped by other communities, such as Karu Mariamma etc. Once the Brahmin community was weakened, and the backward castes came into power, the anti-religion or, rather anti-Brahmin, approach got diluted. Presently, all except the DK leaders, freely visit temples and approach Hindu shrines. The number of people going to temples, and those of temples, has, in fact, increased over time.

Secondly, although the Hindu faith has such a considerable following in Tamil Nadu, Hindutwa forces were unable to find a foothold, basically as the Tamils have learnt to appreciate the distinction between religion and politics. One has to wait and see whether the BJP will be able to cause a change in this attitude.

Thus, to attribute a religious flavour of the word ‘spiritual,’ as used by Rajini, does not appear to be very reasonable. Religion and philosophy remain as watertight compartments in many countries. It is only because these often get mixed up in India that this entire furor is taking place. Spirituality has its roots in philosophy and has nothing to do with the rituals associated with religion.

As a matter fact, everyone in power needs to possess an element of spirituality. Either elected representative or an official who occupies a position of authority can hardly arrogate to oneself the power of doing as they wish. He has to feel – “‘Idamna mama’ – (this is not mine). I am doing my duty. The result of the consequence is not in my hands.” It is with such an approach, that one should perform one’s duties, in a manner devoid of temptation or fear. The moment the element of ‘me’ or ‘mine’ enters one’s thoughts; selfishness is born and spells the end of ethics.

All those, who exercise authority by virtue of being a position of power, have necessarily to subscribe to a set of principles that lay down what ethical conduct is. Surely the DMK also has one such set. It would hardly have been voted to power otherwise.

A few words at this juncture; about good governance and the role of ethics in that context. It is universally accepted that good governance must be founded on moral virtues for ensuring stability and harmony. As Confucius said, righteousness is the foundation of good governance and peace. Transparency, accountability, efficiency and equity are a few of the basic attributes of such a system. The containment, if not elimination, of corruption is another major concern that the Central and the State governments in India are battling with today. That is the reason why, both in the public and the corporate sectors, the formulation, and the putting in place, of a firm and transparent Code of Ethics is assuming increasingly greater importance.

Around the world, many models have been tried out for ensuring that those in public life and, especially those occupying public office, maintain the highest standards of integrity. After studying examples of institutions such as the Ombudsman in Sweden, India has, overtime, evolved its own mechanisms to suit its native genius.
The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Chief Vigilance Commission at the national level and the Vigilance Commissioners and the Anti-Corruption Bureaus in the States, are the chief mechanisms to battle the menace of corruption in our country.

While many states already have a Lok Ayukta in place, the enactment, in 2014, of the law constituting the Lokpal, at the national level, is a historic milestone in this context. The Prevention of Corruption Act provides the statutory basis for dealing with graft in the country. While Citizen’s Charters, the Right to Information Act and the Committees on Ethics in the two houses of Parliament (which ensure compliance with the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament) are other examples of institutional arrangements for ensuring probity in public life.

During my years in service I tried out various methods, and instituted many mechanisms, in different assignments, for the purpose of ensuring swift and prompt action in matters involving the public interest with a view to also addressing the need to deliver goods and services to the general public in an honest and clean manner. The basic principle guiding my approach was informed by the important advice given to me by the late MR Pai, IAS (Retd.), that I was a ‘public servant’ and not a ‘government official.’

By and large, the idea behind my approach was that discrimination, arbitrariness and mala fide should be eliminated from the administration. So long as public servants, especially in India where even constitutional guarantees are made available for their protection, remain unaffected by the evils of temptation and fear, the system will work well.

If officials are willing to raise their collective voice against injustice, refuse to bow to pressures to do things out of the way, and are willing to stand up and be counted when asked for their opinion, the extant system in the country is more than adequate to provide a clean and efficient system of governance. In other words, checks, balances opportunities and scope are all there, built into our versatile and sound system.

All that is needed is the will to use it with a robust sense of purpose and in the public interest. Where there is a will, there is a way! So, there is no need to be unduly fazed by the word ‘spiritual politics.’ It is nothing new. King Janaka in the Ramayana was called ‘Rajarshi,’ for the kind of rule that he provided to his people. And now Rajini has said, “honest and secular politics is spiritual politics.”

Of course, one has to wait and see to what extent he will achieve it, assuming that he will be voted into power. One will also have to see whether he will be able to uphold these principles during election process. One hopes that, this brand of spirituality does not wither away and become historical misnomer like “Gandhian socialism.” In the ultimate analysis, the word ‘spirituality’, per se, need not cause us so much of worry.